Monday, March 13, 2006


A Troublesome Haftarah and a Very Odd Commandment

This last Sabbath, in anticipation of Purim, we read a special maftir and haftarah. The latter describes a troublesome genocide, although it is made more palatable if one considers the sin of Saul to be not his saving of the king but his saving of the king. As the "it was just a few bad apples" crowd so purposefully forgets, a fish rots from the head. For Saul to perform a dastardly genocide (even if it was supposedly done in the name of following the commandments -- which makes it worse?) and then decide to spare the life of the one most responsible for the ill behavior of his people, the king ... that is just outrageous.

The maftir gives the odd commandment to remember to blot out a memory. How does one do that? It does sound impossible, doesn't it? It's a paradox. But it also certainly is a challenge we often face, though: how do we forget something from which we know we ought to move on, but we just cannot? How do we strike a balance between remembering the bad things that have happened so we don't repeat them and trying to move on so we do move past them? Perhaps the secret is that we need to follow this maftir and remember to forget?

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